Slovenia Part 3

Day 39: April 20, 2018

Danny’s Birthday!!! We slept in this morning and I made eggs, sausages and veggies for breakfast. The sausages here are spiced just right.

Birthday breakfast outside

We went into Illirska Bistrica, the nearest town, for groceries. We ended up going to four different places to get what we wanted. I decided I should try some antihistamines to see if it is allergies that is making me feeling so awful. When we got home Danny went for a shower and I quickly wrapped the gift of Pringles and chocolate in my scarf. Danny opened the gift and read the card I had made.

Danny’s birthday present

For a couple of days I had been telling Danny I wanted to draw his portrait. I told him the story of how in Grade 7 art class I had to draw one of my class mates and I can still recall her face when I showed it to her. She politely said, “Oh, good”. I could not draw so I imagine the image was quite shocking to her. In the art class we learned many skills about how to draw a portrait. At the end of the class we had to re-draw the same class mate and I was very impressed with how much I had improved! I wanted to see if I still had some of those skills so for Danny’s birthday I drew his portrait. It ended up looking human, but maybe not like Danny.

Marta showed up to try to get the wifi working, but it seems the signal is too weak because her neighbour and her share. She told us that we could come to her place if needed to get wifi. Before she left, she brought out some crepes filled with plum jam for us.

After she left we put our swimsuits on and walked up to the “fountain” for a dip in the water. I walked in and the water was freezing cold. A guy that we had seen ride in to town on a bike came over. He said that he comes to this pool every day and dunks himself a couple of times. After he dunked a few times. I walked in and dunked myself under. The weather had been so hot the water was refreshing. After much thinking Danny finally jumped in for a birthday dunk. I went in once more, but it felt much colder the second time. We walked up to the field and sat on a picnic table and dried off. We sat talking about our future plans of gardening and bee keeping. My skin started to burn slightly so we walked back to the house.

Out for a dip in the pool at the “fountain”

I baked some brownies for Danny’s birthday cake and Danny made pasta for supper. We sat up on the balcony on the second floor and watched the sun go down. I found a tall, red candle in a holder downstairs and stuck it in the brownies. I carried it upstairs, lit it and sang Happy Birthday. Danny drank some wine and we ended up eating the entire thing of brownies. Overall I think Danny very much enjoyed his 30th birthday.

Happy 30th Birthday
Day 40: April 21, 2018

Today we visited Piran on the coast of Slovenia. We parked and walked down to the cathedral. There was a very nice view of the Adriatic from there. We continued walking down and strolled along the water viewing a couple of sculptures along the way.

Sculptures along the waterfront in Piran

We walked to Tartini Square where there were quite a few tourists and shops.

Tartini Square

We walked along then Danny wanted to walk on the dock. He was telling a story and I guess I cut him off because I felt we shouldn’t be standing there. We both ended up getting mad at each other and stomping back to the car in silence. Again the things we fight over sound ridiculous when I write them down.

Piran was a very pretty town. The old town had narrow, steep streets to walk around, but it really didn’t take much time to see all we wanted to see.

We drove on to Strunjan Nature Reserve where I thought you could walk along a trail and learn about the salt mine. I think we started in the wrong place because the walk we did mostly talked about nature. We walked along the beach and stopped for lunch. We continued walking along the shore and came to a nude section of the beach filled with mostly older people. It felt very awkward walking through with clothes on. We walked up a narrow, steep path to get back to the main one. It led us to a view overlooking the Adriatic and then up through some orchards with grape vines and olive trees. It was incredibly hot and there was no shade along the road passed the orchards. We think it was around 30 degrees Celsius. I ended up with a bit of a sun rash on my chest and arms.

Strunjan Nature Reserve

On the way home, Danny wanted to drive to a church that we kept seeing off the highway. We drove into one town, but at the end of the town there was no church. We decided we needed to come from the south rather than the north so we drove back around to Škocjan. We continued to Matavun and found the Church of Sv. Kancijan with a bell tower. There was a better view from the highway.

Church of Sv. Kancijan

We drove back home and realized the fridge wasn’t working. We messaged Marta, but were unable to find the fuse box based on her description. Her husband ended up coming over to help. The fusebox was hidden behind a picture! He explained that using the washer and oven together blow the fuse. Before he left, he brought in some pastries filled with Nutella. We are too spoiled!

We had burgers topped with cheese and eggplant with broccoli on the side. I chatted with a friend on FaceTime for a bit and then we headed to bed.

Day 41: April 22, 2018

We slept in an hour more than we were supposed to. The no schedule is getting to us. We drove down to Pula, Croatia for the day. Danny had seen a picture of the arena in Pula in a book of off the beaten path travel destinations. In the book it compared the Pula arena to the Colosseum in Rome.

Danny thought we might need cash for the toll roads once we went into Croatia, which uses the Croatian Kuna, so we went in search of an ATM. We crossed the border and headed to Pula. We parked just up from the arena. The Pula Arena is the 6th largest amphitheatre in the world and could host 20,000 spectators in it’s glory. It was built in the 1st Century AD.

Inside Pula Arena

We walked around in the beating heat, but very much enjoyed the view.

Inside Pula Arena

Beneath the fighting ring there was a subterranean chamber for animals and gladiators. The people there didn’t look much like gladiators.

Subterranean chamber of Pula Arena

There were very few people visiting which made it feel more special than the Collosseum. You also didn’t have to line up for hours to get in. It was smaller than the Colloseum, but definitely still impressive.

Pula Arena

From there we walked into the Old Town to view some Roman structures. We saw the Temple of Augustus which was built between 2nd year BC and 14th year AD. Beside was City Hall that was built in 1296.

Temple of Augustus

We walked up the hill to the Kaštel which was built in 1630 and learned some of the history. In the 1st Century BC the Histri would have had a hill fort there. In 177 BC, the Romans took over with a military camp. Then the Venetians moved in and built the current fort in 1630.

We visited the museum inside that discussed the rise of fascism in the area and the events from WWI to the end of WWII. There were a lot of cool artifacts including uniforms, guns and items from concentration camps. We went back down to the main part of the Old Town and saw the Arch of the Sergii which was constructed between approximately 29-27 BC to commemorate three brothers of the Sergii family.

Arch of the Sergii

We walked back to the car and drove to Park Prirode Vôka. There was supposed to be a very nice viewpoint. We followed a path that said 5 min walk. We reached a viewpoint looking into the valley. It was very beautiful, but not the right one.

View into the valley in Park Prirode Vôka

We drove up a narrow and windy road. At the top was a tower and a view to the Adriatic. You could see quite far from there. There were lots of people hiking around the area.

View towards the Adriatic in Park Prirode Vôka

We drove back down and stopped at a restroom then headed back to Mereče. Danny made steak, potatoes and vegetables for supper. I called my parents and talked for a bit, but the connection wasn’t that great. We enjoyed supper and tea outside.

Day 42: April 23, 2018

We slept in then had eggs, sausages and bread for breakfast. Have I mentioned how amazing the sausages are here? Delicious! We went into town for groceries. I wanted to make a couple of salads so we ended up going to three different grocery stores to get the veggies that I wanted. There doesn’t seem to be as much variety here. We’re not sure if it’s because they are smaller stores or if they just prefer all local produce so they don’t import as much. Danny was feeling a bit dizzy so we drove home and he laid down for a bit.

I made a cucumber, tomato, red onion, avocado, chickpea and feta salad. The feta here is delicious. We had part of it for lunch and I put the rest in the fridge.

We drove to our host, Marta’s, for 1:00 pm so that we could use her wifi. We arrived and she immediately asked if we wanted some soup. We sat in the garden and she brought out soup broth with some sort of dumplings. Upon research I believe they were farina dumplings. It looked not so great, but was pretty tasty. Then she brought out salad and a pan of potatoes with sausages and a tomatoey sauce. Her husband came out for a chat then went in for a nap. Marta brought out some wine telling Danny it would make him feel better. The wine was very good. We sat and chatted. Marta brought out a photo album showing her daughter’s art exhibitions. She was so proud. We went inside and had tea. Danny booked things for Croatia and I worked on our Russian visa applications.

Around 5:00 pm we thought we had over stayed our welcome so decided we should head home. First Marta’s husband showed us his studio. His artwork was inside along with some of his daughter’s. Danny showed some of his dad’s artwork from Facebook pictures. Then we met Grandma and her little dog that apparently bites. She offered coffee and Danny agreed not wanting to be impolite. She brought out cookies as well. We chatted with Marta interpreting.

They thought their son might be home so we left and met him. He works at Postljana Cave. His English was very good. Marta offered for us to come and sit, but we said we’d better get going. We think she would have fed us supper as well.

We came back happy that we had some family time, but missing our own families as well. We made our own pizza for supper and sat outside to plan the next day. Our neighbour doggy came for a visit as he does every night.

Travelling as a couple sometimes you forget you are a couple. You spend all of your time together so there’s no “excited-to-see-you” moments. You don’t hug or kiss each other good-bye or hello and at times you just think of them as the person next to you. There’s moments however where you reconnect and remember that you’re not just fellow travellers; you’re lovers too.

Day 43: April 24, 2018

We slept in again and then had a quick breakfast. We drove north two hours to Kobarid Museum. The museum gave an overview of WWI at the Isonzo Front between Italy and Austria-Hungary. There was a short documentary at the beginning and then we walked through the exhibits. There were lots of photos, uniforms and weapons. There was also a diorama of the mountain ranges showing where the troops were located. It gave a good overview so we would understand what we were going to see.

We ate lunch in the town square and watched a ticketer write parking tickets. We had salad, boiled eggs and puffed wheat crisps.

We drove on to Kolovrat Outdoor Museum. It is part of the Walk of Peace which shows different areas along the Isonzo Front. Kolovrat Ridge is where the Italian army built a third line of defence for the Isonzo Front.

View from Kolovrat Ridge

Commander and observation posts, machine-gun positions, caves and networks of trenches could be seen. The fights between Italy and Austria-Hungary along this region began in May 1915 and ended in October 1917. The Italians launched 11 failed offensives to get through the front. The 12th offensive was by the Austro-Hungarian with the German troops supporting. They succeeded and the fighting moved west into Italy. Walking around the trenches and caves was very cool. We were the only people there.

Covered trenches on Kolovrat Ridge

It’s the first time I’ve been to a WWI site and it did make you think; a battle 100 years ago still scars the landscape.

Danny walking in the trenches

We took our own path and spent about two hours climbing around. The drive home was long. I think we’ve spent too much time driving recently.

Day 44: April 25, 2018

We slept in….again. We had planned to catch the 9:00 am cable car up to Velika Planina, but decided the 10:00 am would be just as good. We had breakfast and drove north to Kamnik. In retrospect, we should have spent a couple more days in the north of Slovenia. It would have cut down on the recent long drives.

We got stuck in a bit of traffic around Ljubljana, but still made it to the cable car at 9:45 am. The cable car was packed on the way up.

At the exit of the cable car there is a chair lift to take you higher, but it was closed this early in the season. We walked the 30 minutes to the top. Along the way, we stopped and looked at a couple of herdsmen’s huts. The herdsmen don’t arrive until June so all the huts are closed up.

Hike to the top at Velika Planina

We stopped for lunch overlooking one of the settlements. There were lots of purple wildflowers and some of a muted pink.

Wildflowers of Velika Planina

We walked into the settlement and around the huts. We went up to the church, but it wasn’t open. There was a hut you could stay at up there and it looked like you could rent out some of the huts.

Herdsmens’ huts of Velika Planina

We walked back to a canteen and then through another settlement until we found the path back to the cable car. There was still some snow up there. It would have been interesting to see the area filled with herdsmen and cattle. We stopped and stretched at one of the huts near the cable car and caught the 2:00 pm ride down.

We drove into Ljubljana to go to the only Apple store in the country. We bough a SD card adapter so that we can take the pictures off Danny’s camera.

We do really love each other, but we also get really pissed off with each other sometimes. While we were in the mall, I got upset that Danny didn’t like the idea of me clothes shopping and he didn’t like that I made him sound controlling. Angrily, we grocery shopped for a couple of items. Then we got upset trying to talk about it in the mall. We drove out of the city. After driving a bit, Danny said “I love you” and I said “I love you too”. We talked through it and tried to figure out a solution. Being around someone all the time those little things do start to annoy you. I get annoyed that I can’t just do what I want. When we’re together I can’t just go shopping because Danny doesn’t want to do that. Our only solution is more alone time which doesn’t seem to be working out very well, but at least we were able to talk about it. We stopped in Illirska Bistrica for some ice cream and then went home, had supper and chilled.

Day 45: April 26, 2018

I woke up not feeling so great: runny nose and sore throat. I’m not sure if it’s still just allergies or I’m actually sick. I slept in until 9:00 am and Danny brought me breakfast in bed. We lounged in bed for awhile then did some laundry. Danny really needed a hair cut so I tried cutting it with my bikini line razor. It didn’t cut it at all. I think I just took out one chunk at the back.

Around 1:00 pm we drove into town to find a cafe for some wifi, but they don’t seem to be very popular here. We drove back to the previous town where Danny had seen a sign for wifi at a restaurant. I ordered four cheese gnocchi which was delicious and Danny had a burger stuffed with ham and cheese. The internet was good for a bit, but then stopped working.

We drove back to the ice cream shop and sat on the benches. There was free wifi so we really should have gone there first. Danny booked some things for Corfu and I FaceTimed my mommy. I managed to talk Danny into getting more ice cream then we came back home. We got back home and packed our bags. Marta came over because she couldn’t read our message about check out. We think she just likes visiting us. She brought over some bread then offered to make us breakfast tomorrow morning before we go. She also offered to take us for ice cream, but we politely declined.

Marta is not someone we will forget. She was very kind to us and made us feel very special. Nothing was overly special about her place, but it had a lot of love. Slovenia made us feel very comfortable and we were able to do some of things we love: skiing and hiking. Next is Croatia, which has become a very popular tourist destination in the last 5-10 years. We are looking forward to the coastline views and beaches.


Slovenia Part 2

Day 26: April 17, 2018

This morning we packed up and had some breakfast. We very much enjoyed our stay in the nice little apartment in Möste and would definitely recommend the area for anyone wanting to travel to Slovenia.

We drove south to Predjama Castle. It stands in a cave halfway up a 127 m cliff. In its day, the castle offered very good security, but was not built for comfort. It would have been very damp and cold living in the castle. Parts of the castle date to the 12th century, but the current appearance is from 1583. The view from the outside was extraordinary.

Predjama Castle

I really enjoyed walking through the castle as well. The rooms were set up like they may have been in the past rather than being repurposed. It made you feel like you were actually visiting the family that lived there. We saw the torture chamber, the dining hall, the kitchen (it had a fireplace that used a natural tunnel as the chimney and a sink that drained to the outer wall), the observation deck, the great room (the only room that would be heated) and the armoury. Then we moved into the cave portion of the castle.

Cave portion of Predjama Castle

The cave portion was slightly in ruins, but there was a water collection system that brought the cave water still set up. It could be used in case the other water source in the castle, the river, was poisoned from the outside.

Water collection inside cave of Predjama Castle

We saw the path into the back of the cave that Erazem, the castle’s most famous resident, used to get food from nearby villagers when the castle was under siege by the Austrians. In 1484, he stayed in the castle for an entire year while the Austrians were outside. Eventually, a servant was bribed by the enemy and told them the weakest point in the castle to hit. Erazem was killed due to this hit. His girlfriend planted a tree at a nearby church where we ate our lunch. A kitty came to visit us and wanted our lunch.

Lunchtime visitor at Predjama Castle

We drove on to our Airbnb in Mereče. Our host, Marta, welcomed us. We were a bit early so she was still cleaning up a bit, but she offered us some food. She made us eggs with sausages from a neighbour. There was also fresh bread, some cookies, local wine and a shot of a liquer also made by a neighbour. She was very sweet and asked about our trip. She then offered to take us to the “fountain” up the road. Along the way we stopped at a natural spring and filled our bottle with water. We walked up a bit further through a field to an incredible stream falling down many rocks. It was quite beautiful. She told us that young people jump in the small pool at the bottom on hot days.

The “fountain” in Mereče

Marta told us about making salad from the dandelion leaves by adding onion and oil. In the early spring many Slovenians are seen collecting the leaves in the fields. She also showed us a plant they use to make pesto; it may have been basil. She told us of the “bum-bums” or bunnies that are around. When she retired she opened the Airbnb so that she could keep busy and meet new people. The neighbours asked, “Who would want to come to Mereče?”. When her first guests called she was so excited.

Marta dropped us back off at the house and we tried to do some planning outside in the sun, but the internet wasn’t working very well. The place is clean, but old and full of knick knacks. It felt less homey once Marta left. I just wanted to give her a big hug. She was so sweet.

We decided to take a walk down into the fields behind the house. There were lots of paths around town. We came back and had leftovers for supper. Then we went to bed fairly early.

Evening walk in Mereče
Day 37: April 18, 2018

Last night, we both had a very good sleep. The house is very chilly even though it is warm outside. We had some breakfast and headed to Škocjan Cave. We arrived just in time for the 10:00 am tour. We thought we might be able to walk through alone, but no dice. There were two school groups there as well. We all walked to the cave entrance. The groups went with two other guides and all the remaining people went with another guide.

Škocjan cave is one of the largest known underground canyons in the world. The Reka River enters the cave then flows underground. The cave floods every year to different levels changing the landscape inside. We walked down and into a small chamber. Walking through we saw many stalactites and stalagmites. It was quite pretty. Then we moved into a huge chamber with the river rushing below. The chamber was around 100 m tall. There is another chamber inside the cave that is 140 m tall. The scale of the caving was amazing. We continued over a bridge and then along the river. Danny claims the bridge is the same one Gandalf stood on and yelled, “You shall not pass”. I haven’t found anything to prove that other than one other blog post. Sadly, no photos were allowed inside.

We moved out of the cave and then took a funicular back up. We walked a bit further to a viewpoint and then back to the car.

Viewpoint at Škocjan Cave

We had a sandwich and then drove to Hruševje. There was a fort on a hill with a church inside. It was used for protection by the town. The gate inside was closed so we walked around then up a trail a bit for a view of the town.

Fort in Hruševje

From there, we drove to another town nearby. The streets were quite narrow so we parked and walked up. There was a tower with one wall remaining and a church. On our walk back down I had a big sneeze. If you’ve never heard my sneezes, they are huge. My grandpa was kind enough to pass those down to my mother and me. Danny complained that I should cover it in my arm so it’s not so loud. I lost it on Danny. My sneezes are so big that they hurt. We walked back to the car in silence. Yes, these are the things we fight about. Really it’s all the little things that seem to drive us crazy.

We tried to find a coffee shop in town and ended up at a cappuccino bar that was heavy on the bar. We had teas and did some planning for how to get to Venice, where to park and what to see there. We booked a walking tour with a gondola ride. We drove back home and were able to talk through the sneeze incident. Danny made chicken, potatoes and broccoli for supper. We ate outside again because the house is so cold. We sat outside for a while then went to bed.

In the last couple of months I think I have gotten a lot better at being willing to talk through our fights. In the past I preferred to just avoid it and move on, but this led to a build up of anger. I think it is good that I have developed that skill otherwise all of the little fights we have on this trip would probably be very damaging. We have been able to talk through them and laugh after about how ridiculous we both are being.

A post on Venice and more on Slovenia will be coming soon. I had to split up the post because it was getting too long! I hope everyone is enjoying our journey.


Slovenia Part 1

Day 27: April 8, 2018

We had to drag ourselves out of bed at 5:00 am to head to the Budapest bus terminal We finished packing, ate breakfast and I tried to search for an Uber. Sadly, it didn’t seem Budapest used Uber so we had to re-plan. I looked up the transit which seemed pretty quick. We took the train from Keleti and then had to change to another, but it wasn’t running. Up we went to the street level to try to find the replacement bus going the correct way. Eventually we found the right stop. We arrived early to catch our bus which was scheduled to leave just after 7:00 am. As we boarded the bus, the driver was upset because no one had their passports out for him to check. The drivers had gone to get a coffee and then were in a rush to get everyone loaded on the bus.

We crossed the border to Slovenia and a border guard came on to check our passports. Two men sitting at the back of the bus were pulled out and their bags were searched. They eventually got back on the bus and we continued. About an hour later the bus was pulled over by the police. All of our passports were collected this time and one of the same men was asked to step off the bus. About ten minutes later we were all back on the bus and on our way.

We arrived in Ljubljana and waited an hour for the bus to the airport. While we were waiting in the bus terminal two different people were staring at us. We aren’t sure if we were sitting in the wrong spot or why they were looking so curiously at us. The ride to the airport took about 45 minutes. We picked up our rental car there: a Volkswagen Up! (the exclamation point is included in the name).

We stopped at the first petrol station to pick up a toll road vignette for 30 euros that will sustain us for a month. We drove into Kranj for groceries. All the stores had closed at 3:00 pm because it was a Sunday. We stopped at a different petrol station and picked up enough food for supper and breakfast. We drove to our Airbnb located in Möste, which is just northwest of Bled. It is an upstairs apartment that is quite beautiful and exceptionally clean. The hosts had a huge binder of things to do, places to visit and food to eat. It was definitely a Monica or Merai binder. The apartment also had a large balcony where we ate our pasta for supper with a mountain view.

Danny sitting on the balcony of our Airbnb in Möste
Day 28: April 9, 2018

We slept in a bit as I was feeling a bit under the weather. We had breakfast then drove to the grocery store in Bled. It didn’t have a lot of things on our list so we had to make do. We drove around Lake Bled to Zara campground where we started the hike to Ojstrica. The trail description online listed the hike as easy, but I would definitely disagree. It was a short hike to the viewpoint, but it was steep the entire way. The viewpoint gave a gorgeous view of Lake Bled and Bled Island with the church. We continued walking to Mala Osojnica, which was also very beautiful.

View of Lake Bled from Malta Osojnica

The hike down was very steep. There was a steel staircase that was almost a ladder. When we reached the bottom we walked around the lake to find a place to rent a rowboat. After a 15 minute walk we found a place with a boat to rent for 15 euro. Danny rowed us out to the island and did a much better job than I would have. When I rowed with my friends on Pyramid Lake I could not get the arm movement down.

We walked around the island which did not take long as there was not much to see. We paddled back around the island and returned to the dock.

Bled Island

We walked back to the car and ate some sandwiches for lunch. From there we drove up to Bled Castle. We had to pay 5 euro to park and then 11 euro each to get in. They were doing a lot of reconstruction so there really wasn’t much to see, especially for that price. There were pictures of the castle in ruins and then how it looks now. A lot of money has obviously been put into restoring it. I felt that the restoration made it lose the charm and sense of history that comes with a ruin castle.

Bled Castle

We drove back down and stopped at another grocery store just outside of Bled for some things we missed from our morning grocery stop. We arrived back at our place and I watched some Netflix while Danny went for a run. I ended up laying down after that and slept until morning missing Danny’s delicious taco salad for supper.

Day 29: April 10, 2018

We slept in this morning. I was feeling a bit better, but my head was still hurting. We had breakfast and then watched a couple of episodes of Outlander. I had leftover taco salad for lunch. We did some planning and researched Russian visa applications some more. Danny planned some of Croatia and I booked transport to Croatia and Greece. By the end we were both feeling frustrated. Planning is a lot of work. It is much more fun just to do the activities. Danny went for another run while I uploaded pictures to Dropbox. We had salmon for supper and then went to bed. Overall it was a very nice rest day.

Day 30: April 11, 2018

We awoke fairly early for a quick breakfast and then drove an hour to Vogel Ski Centre. We parked in a mostly empty lot and took the next gondola up at 8:30 am. The rental place at the top didn’t open until 8:45 am so we checked out what lifts were open this late in the season. There was one magic carpet, one small chair lift and one T-bar.

We obtained our equipment and did a few runs. You had to put the T-bar in place by yourself and I struggled quite a lot. It kept slipping from my hands. Luckily, there weren’t very many people. We stopped around 10:00 am for a snack then went for a few more runs. It got a bit more busy and very slushy as the sun came out. We decided to hand in our rentals and head back down around 11:00 am. It wasn’t the best conditions, but it was nice to get out.

Skiing at Vogel

We drove up from Vogel to Savica Waterfall. Waterfall in Slovenian is “slap” which I  quite enjoy. The waterfall comes from a karst spring.

Savica Waterfall

We drove down and stopped at Lake Bohinj. It is much quieter than Lake Bled and far bigger.

Enjoying the sunshine at Lake Bohinj

From there we drove to Pokljuka Gorge in Triglav National Park for a short hike. The path was slightly covered with rock and debris. We took the trail to the “Galleries” first which is a bridge that was constructed in 1930 across the narrowest part of the gorge to allow passage. We climbed up from the “Galleries” and across a natural bridge over the canyon. As we were walking up we heard rocks falling on the bridge where we had been five minutes previously. We both stared at each other and decided not to mention it to our mothers, who are probably now reading this!

Danny walking through the “Galleries” at Pokljuka Gorge

We hiked up some more then found the path down. It was quite slippery due to the wet leaves, snow and mud. We descended into an open cavern. There were a couple of little chutes you could easily go through. It was quite an amazing site.

We headed back to the car from there and drove into Bled to Smon Sweets for Bled cream cake. It was light pastry, whipped cream, a light cake and then more pastry. Yum!

Bled Cream Cake

We walked a bit, but then it started to rain so we headed back home. We are getting a bit frustrated with our Russian visa applications. When we called the visa centre originally they said we couldn’t apply until 90 days before. The Canadian Embassy informed us we could apply six months before! Then we were told we aren’t able to apply when we are not in Canada. Tomorrow we plan to call the Russian Embassy here and see if we can figure it all out.

Day 31: April 12, 2018

We woke up and ate breakfast then started to work calling some embassies. We started with the Russian Embassy in Slovenia. They only do applications for Slovenians. We tried Romania and Austria and were passed to a different number at least once with the final result that they only do applications for their own citizens. We decided to try the Russian Embassy in Canada one more time. Due to the time change, we had to wait until the afternoon for the embassy to be open.

To make the best of the rainy day, we drove to Ljubljana. We parked by the Dragon Bridge and walked around their old town, which does not allow any vehicle traffic. It made the walk very pleasant. Danny just kept saying how much he loved it.

Rainy day in Ljubljana

For lunch, we stopped at a pizza place. I had a small pizza which ended up being regular sized and Danny had a calzone which was gigantic. We walked back to where a market was held. We purchased strawberries and bananas. They were quite expensive. A sign indicated that the castle was that way so we followed along. Eventually, we found some stairs that seemed to be through a back alley, but they led us to the back side of the castle. We paid entry and then were confused why we paid when you could just walk in. The castle hosts a restaurant, theatre and museums. The ticket we purchased was for entry into the museums. First, we went to the Museum of Puppetry. It was small, but full of old Slovenian puppets. It was definitely my kind of place. We were able to put on puppet shows with some of the different types of puppets.

We entered another museum that played a film with the history of the castle. Settlements in the castle location have been around since 1200 BC. A medieval fortress was built in the 11th century. Most of the current buildings are from the 16th and 17th centuries. In the 19th century it was partially redesigned for use as a prison.

There was a tower to climb, but the very top was closed due to the rain. We also walked through an Exhibition of Slovenian History and the Penitentiary which displayed some of the old cells.

After awhile we started to get bored so we walked back down to the car. It took awhile to get out of Ljubljana. People seem to get off work here at 3:00 pm based on traffic. We stopped for groceries on the way back and then called the Canadian visa agency again. They confirmed again our original plan so all the fuss and worry was about nothing.

Day 32: April 13, 2018

This morning we had breakfast and then drove to the cable car that would take us up to Velika Planina, a pasture on a mountain plateau in the Kamnik Alps. The lady informed us that it was closed until April 23 for maintenance. The hike up to the top from the cable car was three hours. She provided a map that showed another place to park and then hike up about an hour. We decided that would be a better option.

We drove and reached a point where the road split. We struggled a bit to decide where we were located. We brought out the map, Google Maps and looked at a map on a sign and we finally agreed on our location. We took a gravel road up and found a parking lot. We decided to walk from there. The path went passed a little hut and then up into the trees.

To set the scene, it was raining slightly, the ground was covered in last year’s leaves and I was already in a slightly bad mood. As we were climbing up, my foot slipped off a tree root and I continued sliding until I was laying in the mud. Danny asked, “Are you all right?”. I yelled “No!” and lost it. I picked up the mud with my hands and threw it at the ground. I burst into tears of frustration then sat on the ground for a bit to compose myself. After a very long time I walked up a bit further and the path looked the same: wet leaves, tree roots and mud. I looked back at Danny and said, “I don’t want to do this”. He said, “Okay, we don’t have to”. We got back to the car and to make me feel a bit better Danny bought me ice cream in Bled. We drove back home, watched some Netflix and had leftovers for dinner.

There aren’t any pictures to share of the bad days, but believe me we still have them. Me maybe more than Danny.  We always say that this isn’t really a vacation; there’s more work involved: mentally and emotionally. In the end, the strain is definitely still worth the experiences we are collecting.

Day 33: April 14: 2018

We woke up and drove into Bled to meet for our Black Hole Kayaking adventure. The guide showed up at exactly 8:45 am. We were the only people on the tour from Bled. The guide was very chatty on our way to the mine. We crossed into Austria then back into Slovenia. The mountain pass road was quite steep with many switchbacks.

The mine was in Podzemlje Pece. About 350 years ago it opened as an iron mine. In later years, zinc was also mined once people realized what it looked like. We took an old mine cart train down into the mine. Eight people could fit in each cart. We were closed in for a very bumpy and noisy ride to the 8th level of the mine.

Mine cart train into Podzemlje Pece mine

From there we climbed many, many stairs down. We were given dry suits with boots and kept our sweaters on not knowing how cold it would be. We were also given gloves and helmets with headlamps. Once we had our gear on we climbed down to the 12th level. The mine had a total of 22 levels. Everything below 12 is currently submerged in water. Pumps used to move the water out when the mine was still operational. At the 12th level the water was up to our knees to start. We walked with the kayaks upstream for a bit which made me understand why Rose struggled so much to get to Jack.

We climbed into the kayaks and were led through the different shoots of the mine. In most places the paddles did little good as the path was too narrow. It was easier to use your hands to grip the wall and pull yourself along. The next day my forearms were hurting from this. There were a couple fo portages where we had to lift the kayaks up and then climb over a barrier. There was even a waterfall we had to float down. In some channels you had to sink down into the kayak in order to fit through.

Ducking to fit through a tunnel in the mine

Near the end, we were given thirty minutes to explore on our own. The area had all dead ends so we couldn’t get lost. In one cavern alone, we turned off our head lamps and the darkness was complete. It was a bit scary.

Floating through the mine in our kayak

We arrived back at the start and climbed up to the change room. My legs were shaking by the top from all the stairs. We changed into our clothes and then walked up through a different path. I was very grateful we didn’t have to climb back up all the stairs.

We stopped in a room where the miners would meet in the morning to have their work assigned and then in the evening to ensure they were all back. No one could leave until all the workers were back. Due to the mine being made of limestone, cave-ins were rare, but if your head lamp went out you had to sit and wait until others came to find you.

The mine originally had entire families working: men, women and children. Most were farmers that worked in the mine during the winter. There was a pneumatic hammer there that you could try to lift. It was 20 kg. The miners would drill above their heads allowing the rock to pile below so they could keep climbing up.

We went on to a lunch room where the explosives would have been stored. We ate our lunch while the guide told us of his grandfather who had worked 8 hour shifts, 6 days a week in the mine. He woke up at 4:00 am and walked 1.5 hours to the mine. After work he would go and make bricks to add to a new house he was building. He would then walk back home, sleep for four hours and be up for work the next day. On his day off, he would gather his family to work at a farm that would feed them for their work. He died at 49 years old. What a hard life it must have been.

One of the best jobs at the mine, handed out randomly, was fixing the railroad ties. The worst was drilling samples to find new deposits. The equipment for sampling weighed 70 kg with only one man carrying it or else they would have to split the pay between two people.

We saw where the water pumps would have sat as well. The mine was closed in 1994 after prices of iron and zinc decreased dramatically. The cost of pumping the water was too much. Prices have since increased, but there is no talk of re-opening the mine. The mine also has deposits of wolframite that was used by the Nazis in WWII to make munitions and tools.

We caught the train back to the daylight. On our ride back to Bled we had some good discussions with our guide. He told us about the mountains and the surrounding areas. He gave some interesting statistics too such as Slovenia having the highest number of tractors per capital. He said that Slovenia claims their pizza is better than Italy’s because their water and flour is better. He also said Slovenians like to eat and drink.

Many of the streams in Slovenia are voted to be the purest in Europe. We stopped at Jezerska Slatina for some mineral water from a spring. In 2013, a pipeline was built to carry the water to this location near the main road. An older couple was there filling bottles in their trunk. We filled our bottles and the taste was not what we expected. It was almost like drinking carbonated water. The water naturally has a high CO2, calcium and manganese content.

We drove on passed a heart shaped lake and up the road into a mountain pass towards Golivrh mountain. There was a house with chickens running around and just quiet. The mountains in front of us were beautiful and the fields in front were peaceful. The area is away from the tourists of Bled and gorgeous.

Beautiful view into the mountains

We stopped back at the lake: Planšarsko Jezero for some pictures and a bathroom break. Our guide came out with three shots and we all had a delicious drink. I believe it was a blueberry liqueur with blueberries at the bottom – maybe Boroničevec based on my Googling.

Danny in front of Planšarsko Jezero

We drove back to Bled and the guide suggested a Slovenian restaurant and a petrol station to buy a new SIM card. The one we purchased in the UK was only good for a month and I wasn’t able to re-load it without a UK credit card. The guide’s friend was working at the petrol station and was quite the character. He had a bit of trouble getting the data to work, but eventually got it all sorted out.

We drove up to Gostilna Kurej which the guide suggested. We ordered gnocchi with prosciutto in a tomato sauce as a started. When it arrived it was the size of a full meal. We also had bread and delicious mulled wine. For the mains, Danny had Yugoslav sausages and I had fried chicken and chips. As promised by our guide our plates were full and we were both stuffed by the end.

We drove back, but the road Google Maps wanted us to take had an orange sign with some text in Slovenian. Danny waited while I used Google Translate. “Complete imprisonment” came up so Danny immediately turned around and we found a different way home.

Day 34: April 15, 2018

We had scrambled eggs and sausages for breakfast. The sausages here are amazing. Danny planned Croatia for a bit and then we picked up groceries. It’s always interesting to find what we want. I bought a panna cotta mix so that I can get my baking fix, as well as a brownie mix for Danny’s birthday.

We came back and I researched Greece because Caitlin wanted to discuss our plans. We have only been planning our Airbnbs a week or two ahead of time and then flights two weeks to a month ahead so Greece was still pretty far in the future for us. If we had been planning a single trip though we would have had everything booked months before.

Danny kept planning Croatia then went for a run while I called Caitlin. We made a schedule and talked about going to some islands. We chatted for a couple of hours until we had a better idea about what we will do in Greece.

Day 35: April 16, 2018

Danny left around 6:30 am in the morning to go to Obertauern in Austria for a ski day. I slept in a bit and then worked out. We bought Nutella the other day and it is hella dangerous. I watched some Netflix, updated our expense spreadsheet, edited a blog post and uploaded pictures.

I decided I had to take the opportunity to buy Danny a birthday present while he was away. I walked into Zirovnica. Google Maps wanted me to walk through a field, but I took another way. It was quite steep walking down. I went to the grocery store, but all I found was chocolate and Pringles. I looked at Google Maps to see if there were any other stores in town, but I was out of luck. I walked back home a longer, less steep way and picked some flowers (dandelions and likely other weeds) along the way. I chatted with the host for a little until his daughter called for him. I made the panna cotta mix after I Google Translated the instructions.

Danny arrived home around 5:00 pm and he had lots to tell me about the Porsche Museum in Gmünd he stopped at on the way home from skiing. He very much enjoyed it and learned even more car facts. The skiing was very foggy.

Inside the Porsche Museum

I called Kaleen and we chatted for a bit. I told her all about my freak out in the mud. Danny and I ate dessert and were very impressed with panna cotta which neither of us had tried before.

Tomorrow we leave our beautiful Airbnb to move south in Slovenia. We loved staying so close to Bled and Triglav National Park, but away from the tourist scene. It will be interesting to see what we find next.